Strong week for ABC, but 'Idol' lifts Fox

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NEW YORK -- The Oscars and a new episode of "Grey's Anatomy" helped ABC to its best week in the ratings since it carried the Super Bowl in February 2006, though it wasn't enough to beat the now three-night-a-week juggernaut that is Fox's "American Idol."

Fox prevailed in all the key audience measures, including adults 18-34, adults 18-49 and total viewers. That's due in large part to "Idol," which last week went to three nights for the next three weeks. "Idol" carried the night Tuesday and Wednesday, though a surging "Grey's" led ABC to a big win Thursday over "Idol" on Fox and "CSI: Crime Scene Investigation" and the rest of the CBS stable.

Sunday night's big winner was the 79th Annual Academy Awards, which averaged 40.2 million viewers and 14.1 rating/33 share in the adults 18-49 demographic for the nearly four-hour telecast, according to Nielsen Media Research. Although still on the low end of recent Oscar ratings, viewership was up 1.3 million from last year's show -- the second-lowest-rated ever -- and up in adults 18-49 and adults 18-34, the highest ratings in the latter category in five years.

Monday went to CBS in both viewership and adults 18-49, with the Tiffany network pouring it on thanks to strong performances by "Two and a Half Men" (16.6 million, 5.3/12) and "CSI: Miami" (19.2 million, 5.9/15) as well as the freshman sitcom "Rules of Engagement" (13.9 million, 4.9/11), which has remained strong since its debut after the Super Bowl. Fox and NBC tied for second place, with the peacock getting a boost from "Deal or No Deal" (17.6 million, 4.8/12) and "Heroes" (14.1 million, 6.0/14); "Heroes" was the night's top show in adults 18-49 and is the No. 1 new show of the season so far.

Tuesday 8-10 p.m. was all "Idol" (29.5 million, 11.8/30); NBC's "Law & Order: SVU" (11.9 million, 4.1/11) won at 10 p.m. Wednesday also was all "Idol" (30.4 million, 12.3/31).

Season-to-date, "Idol" is up 2% in the demographic and 4% in viewership. CBS' "Criminal Minds" (13.7 million, 3.7/9) was the only show betweenCQ 8 and 10 p.m. to have any traction against Fox; the same couldn't be said about CBS' "Jericho" (8.3 million, 2.3/6), which returned in less-than-fine form ratings-wise. ABC's "Lost" (12.9 million, 5.7/15) won its time period in the demo against CBS' "CSI: NY" (13.7 million, 3.9/10).

The ratings pendulum swung firmly back to ABC on Thursday night, even with a boost from the third-night "Idol" (24.4 million, 9.1/23). Thursday's story was "Grey's" (27.4 million, 11.6/27), which finished a three-episode story arc with the best ratings since its post-Super Bowl outing in February 2006. It crushed "CSI" (21.8 million, 6.8/16), NBC's sitcoms and the finale of Fox's "The O.C." (6.6 million, 2.8/6). ABC carried 10 p.m. with "The Oprah Winfrey Oscar Special" (15.4 million, 6.0/16), which beat CBS' "Shark" (14.2 million, 3.9/10) and NBC's "ER" (10 million, 4.1/11). "Idol" overshadowed CBS' "Survivor: Fiji" (13.5 million, 4.6/12) as well as NBC's "My Name Is Earl" (8.7 million, 3.6/10) and "The Office" (8.2 million, 4.2/10), though the latter was only off a bit from its season average.

CBS won Friday in both viewership and the adults 18-49 demographic, with "Ghost Whisperer" (9.5 million, 2.8/9) and "Numbers" (11 million, 3.0/9) winning their time periods and "Close to Home" (10.1 million, 2.5/7) tying NBC's "Las Vegas" (8.3 million, 2.5/7) in the demo and winning in viewers. The CW also had a good night with "Friday Night SmackDown!" (5.4 million, 1.8/6), which posted its best viewership since 2005 and best demo ratings in more than a year.

Weekly averages: Fox (14.9 million, 6.0/15), ABC (13 million, 4.7/12), CBS (11.2 million, 3.2/8), NBC (7.9 million, 2.6/7) and the CW (3 million, 1.2/3).
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